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Christine Atkinson
Sharon Owens and Sebastian Anzaldo  


Barbra and Frank: The Concert That Never Was


A Sensational Tribute to Sinatra and Streisand


Starring Sharon Owens and Sebastian Anzaldo


Musical Director: Phil Hawkes


New Players Theatre


22 November – 18 December 2010







A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!


The’ cool’ among you may dub me a cornball, but I enjoyed this show. It’s a two-hander which does what it says in its title, it brings Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra together, in the guise of their two top State-side imitators, Sharon Owens and Sebastian Anzoldo. Their musical director, Phil Hawkes, does the honours on grand piano, which he cheerily plays in conjunction with backing tracks complete with other sounds as needed, both incidental (i.e. a Vegas announcer) or other instruments to make up the sound of a full sized band for swinging and Broadway numbers.

Sure, there’s nothing new about tribute shows. But what makes this one so surprising is that there are actually moments where you find yourself willing to suspend disbelief and enjoy it for what it is, a well acted and performed double act of talented singers who love the stars they’re paying tribute to and admire their work.  In some moments, both Owens and Anzoldo blur the lines between fantasy and reality, especially during seemingly spontaneous spurts of ad-libbed cheery banter in character which includes topical references. And between the stars this pair has chosen to honour, there are plenty of great songs. In the case of Anzoldo as Sinatra, swinging numbers like ‘Chicago’ (My Kind of Town), ‘Come Fly With Me,’ ‘Luck Be a Lady,’ ‘The Lady is a Tramp,’ and others really get the crowd going. Ms. Owens is equally strong handling Streisand’s impressive range on songs dating from Funny Girl show-stopping numbers of the ‘60’s through more recent easy listening radio hits like ‘Evergreen’ and ‘Woman in Love.’

Naturally, built in fans of Sinatra and Streisand in the house offered enthusiastic press night support, with the house lights being put on as ‘Streisand’ made her way down the aisle after requesting a show of hands about who has been married for how long and discovering a couple behind us who held the record at fifty-five years. Owens has a great capacity for naturalness within the context of her Streisand, asking the man what his secret was, only to have him pass, for his wife to claim ‘habit.’ Disillusioning maybe, but funny! Anzoldo as Sinatra does his bit, pr wise in character too, pumping hands down front while cooing ‘ok baby’ with a cock of his head. It’s all in keeping with ‘ol blue eyes’ legendary way with an audience.

Sharon Owens rose to fame in the U.S. with her winning appearance as Barbra Streisand on Fox TV’s Performing As…the U.S. equivalent to ‘Stars in Your Eyes.’ It has to be said that any singer who can even come close to equalling Streisand’s range and vocal style is gifted, (whether you like Streisand and her songs or not) and the very talented Ms. Owens comes close to reaching her idol’s level, and her uncanny resemblance to Streisand helps solidify the illusion. It’s a great shame that the film clips accompanying the show that night malfunctioned fairly early on, and could no longer be projected, but suffice it to say that Owens stood comfortably onstage beneath 1960’s clips of Ms. Streisand as she sang, her resemblance to her is that uncanny. Though, it’s a certainty that Owens own acting and vocal talents, as well as her observational and mimicry skills have a lot to do with the success of her characterization.  She is right on the money in terms of walking that fine line between tribute and parody which makes us consider the person being paid tribute to, without thinking less of them. In fact, I left the theatre thinking I should give some of the songs in the show another chance, as it’s been a long while since I’ve heard most of them, whether by Sinatra or Streisand, and then, mainly through elders. That thinking signifies roles well played. And given the fact that the show’s programme is always subject to change, due to the huge repertoires of the stars being focused on, a second visit later in the run wouldn’t go amiss.

In the case of Sebastian Anzaldo aka ‘The Chairman of the Board,’ an early passion for jazz lead him to NYC, L.A. and finally Vegas, where he realised he could do ‘Frank.’ The rest as they say is history, as his great reception in the role lead him to star in ‘The Tribute to the Rat Pack,’ then, his head-lining residency with Sharon Owens as Streisand in Barbra and Frank, the Concert that Never Was at the Rivera on the Strip. Like Owens, Anzaldo also appeared in a U.S.  TV show entitled The Next Best Thing, where he came in second only to an Elvis impersonator – not surprising, since Elvis was the only singer more fanatically regarded in his day. Though in hindsight, Sinatra is regarded as the first ever teen idol, back in the days of bobby sox (what a cheap and cheerful fad), when he sang with the Tommy Dorsey band. However, Anzaldo, who has Sinatra’s sense of nervy machismo, really excels on the more autobiographical, world weary numbers of ole blue eyes’ later days, from ‘One for the Road,’ and ‘That’s Life,’ right through to the great closing comeback song, which he shares with Owens, ‘New York, New York.’

The show is very imaginatively put together too, at one point featuring a duet of sorts with Streisand and Sinatra alternating verses of their hits, ‘The Way We Were,’ and ‘It Was A Very Good Year’ which works far more effectively than anyone could envision it would, thanks to the talents of those enacting it. Other highlights include Owens’ fabulous renditions of ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade,’ and tearful (at other times in the show comically so) torch song, ‘My Man’ from Funny Girl as well as Anzoldo’s swinging combo of ‘Come Fly With Me’ and ‘Fly Me to the Moon,’ and suitably rasp inflected ‘My Way.’

Considering the wide age range in the audience and initial young piss takers evolving into won over participants, clapping and singing along, I’d say this show was a huge success. And it’s not every day the stars of a show are gracious enough to come to the door of the theatre to wish you well as you depart.

We wish Sharon Owens and Sebastian Anzaldo all the best with their London run of Barbra and Frank: The Concert that Never Was…. As ‘Streisand’ comically quipped, ‘what are there, two seasons here?’ Hopefully for this show, a very enjoyable antidote to winter blahs, there will be nothing but blue skies.

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